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16 October 2014
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The surname Ó Gráda means descendant of the noble, or illustrious one, from the old Irish noun gráda meaning ranked or distinguished, upon which modern Irish gradam is also based. The name has particular connections with the ancient kingdom of Dál gCais around the river Fergus in modern day Co. Clare, where the family had their seat of power. The Ó Gráda were among the first, in the year 1543, to surrender their lands to the English crown and be granted title under the English system, and from then on the heads of the Ó Gráda family acted very much in favour of the English interest in Ireland. For a reason which is unclear, the name became confused and mixed with Brady/O’Brady after this period. Ó Gráda remains most prevalent in Munster and Connacht, and is quite common there.

Gillen is relatively straightforward to explain. Ó Gilín is the original form, the Ó having been dropped over time, and the name is based on the adjective geal, its diminutive form making in this gilín, to give the meaning ‘little bright one’. It was very probably a term of endearment and is reminiscent of the great Aisling poem written in the eighteenth century by Aogán Ó Rathaile, Gile na Gile / Brightness of Brightness, which is how he describes the vision, representing Ireland, which appears to him in the form of a young maiden. The surname is most common in Connacht.

McMenamin / McMenemy
McMenamin and McMenemy are both forms of the one surname, which is based on the noun meanma, meaning courage, eagerness or high spirits. The modern day variance in spelling is merely a different rendering of the noun into the genitive after mac – one choosing mac meanman, and the other mac meanma. Meanma is still in use in the language today – tá mé in airde meanma – I’m in a good mood, in good spirits. The surname has its origins in Tyrone and Donegal.

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